Trump says he likes avoiding the proper Senate confirmation process because it gives him 'more flexibility.'
Trump keeps appointing temporary "acting" heads of major government agencies instead of going through the proper channels to nominate full-time leaders — and even some Senate Republicans are worrying about the chaos and uncertainty this could cause, the Washington Post reported Monday.
"It’s a lot, it’s way too many," Sen. James Lankford (R-OK) told the Post, referring to the large number of acting leaders in Trump's Cabinet. "You want to have confirmed individuals there because they have a lot more authority to be able to make decisions and implement policy when you have a confirmed person in that spot.”
Sen. Joni Ernst (R-IA) also told the Post she was concerned that the U.S. lacks a permanent secretary of defense, and said one should be appointed "in order to reassure allies and also to push back on our adversaries."
Two years after Trump took office, seven of the top roles in his administration are filled by acting heads who haven't been confirmed by the Senate. They include an acting chief of staff, an acting attorney general, an acting secretary of defense, an acting secretary of the Interior, an acting director of the Office of Management and Budget, and an acting head of the Environmental Protection Agency.
Those acting heads came in after a number of top Trump administration officials either resigned in disgrace following ethical scandals, were pushed out by Trump for not being loyal, or merely quit because they had enough of working in Trump's chaotic White House.
On Monday afternoon, hours after the Washington Post story came out, Trump announced on Twitter that he will officially nominate David Bernhardt, the current acting secretary of the Interior, to be the department's permanent secretary.
Trump, for his part, admitted that he likes having acting secretaries because they are more beholden to him, and thus are more "responsive" to his demands.
"I like acting because I can move so quickly," Trump told CBS News in an interview that aired on Sunday. "It gives me more flexibility."
But this "flexibility" could end up causing legal troubles for the Trump administration, the Post reports.
Trump hasn't even tried to nominate people to fill 150 out of 750 other top roles in federal agencies that require Senate confirmation. Without permanent replacements for those roles, the Post reported that some Cabinet agencies are using questionable legal workarounds to the Federal Vacancies Reform Act — a 1998 law that bans people from serving in an acting capacity for more than 300 days.
Legal experts told the Washington Post that any actions from officials who are violating the Federal Vacancies Reform Act are "legally problematic" and could be "subject to challenge."
While Trump says he likes having acting officials, there may be another more embarrassing reason he can't fill the roles on a permanent basis: No one wants to work in his White House.
After firing former Chief of Staff John Kelly, Trump struggled to find a replacement. He ultimately settled on Mick Mulvaney, who is working in an acting capacity.
It's been so difficult to find people willing to work for the administration, the White House even turned to a job fair in June to fill some staffing roles.
If Trump either can't or won't do the basic work required to keep the federal government staffed and functional, it's no wonder even some of his allies in Congress are getting nervous.
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.